Somebody has to try these things for the rest of us. Jason Gay did.
I ate a $180 steak sandwich. Not for me; donâ€™t be ridiculous. I did it for journalism.
Letâ€™s dispense with the obvious: A $180 steak sandwich is an indefensible purchase. It is a foodstuff strictly for vulgarians, a decadent symbol of 21st-century gluttony and the over-luxurification of everything. To buy it is to wallow in oneâ€™s privilege, oneâ€™s shameless indifference to the plight of humankind.
Other than that, itâ€™s pretty tasty. …
Unlike, say, the beignets at New Orleansâ€™ Cafe du Monde, the Don Wagyu $180 sandwich seems to be less of a foodieâ€™s bucket-list experience than a freak-show curiosity: How could a sandwich cost as much as a plane ticket to Florida? This is, after all, the type of thing that makes the rest of the planet think New Yorkers are out of their minds. Was the $180 sandwich a legitimate food experience or some kind of commentary on late-stage capitalism?
I should call the sandwich by its real name: the A5 Ozaki. The â€œA5â€ is a reference to the summit-grade of Japanese beef, and â€œOzakiâ€ is the farm from which Don Wagyu gets the meat (the only U.S. establishment to receive it, the server says while Iâ€™m there). Don Wagyu also serves more affordable Katsu sandosâ€”thereâ€™s a $22 off-menu burger, for exampleâ€”but the $180 Ozaki is the cleanup hitter at the bottom of the menu. It is served medium-rare.
Ordering the A5 Ozaki is not a showy experience. The lights do not dim, the kitchen does not clap; it does not require much more of a wait than a turkey club at a diner. A slice of beef is encrusted with panko, fried, placed on toasted white bread and served quartered, like a preschoolerâ€™s PB&J. Nori-sprinkled french fries and a pickle spear are the only accompaniments.
Breaking news: I liked it. Iâ€™m not a food critic. I hardly know my cuts of meat, and I cannot offer a detailed analysis of why the A5 Ozaki is $100 more of an event than the closest-priced item, the A5 Miyazaki. I will not try to justify paying such an absurd amount for a single piece of food, especially one that can be tidily consumed in the space of five minutes. But the A5 Ozaki was light and buttery to the point of being almost ethereal, as if the sandwich knew the pressure of delivering on its comical price.
Which, of course, it does not. There is no sandwich that is possibly worth $180. But thatâ€™s the thrill (and the crime) of extravagance, is it not? Eating this thing felt right and completely wrongâ€”more like a caper than a lunch.